Nine out of 10 parents concerned about COVID-19 if school buildings reopen

Nine out of 10 parents concerned about COVID-19 if school buildings reopen

The MTA issued the following press release today regarding a new poll showing the strong concerns of parents and others about reopening school buildings in the weeks ahead:

A new poll by Echo Cove Research & Consulting commissioned by the Massachusetts Teachers Association finds overwhelming concern among parents and others that students may catch and spread the coronavirus if schools open to in-person instruction as scheduled.

The online poll of 600 voters, conducted from July 24 to July 29, found that nine out of 10 (89 percent) of parents are at least somewhat concerned that their children will catch COVID-19 if schools open in a few weeks, and 62 percent of them are “very” or “extremely” concerned. Parents are also worried that the virus will spread to other family members.

A similarly high proportion of non-parents said they were at least somewhat concerned about children (84 percent) and educators (90 percent) catching and spreading the virus.

Given the choice between opening schools for all students under current state guidance versus opening remotely, nearly four-fifths of voters — 78 percent — favored opening remotely. This finding came in response to asking voters which of the following two statements they most agreed with.

  1. “Have all students return to school on schedule, which would require relaxing safety guidelines such as reducing social distancing from 6 to 3 feet and not having children below grade 2 wear masks. This would let parents return to work and allow students to get back on track with their education.” (23 percent)
  2. “Have a flexible approach in which remote learning is improved and applied in the beginning of the school year. Then, some students are moved back into schools if coronavirus cases remain low and as health and safety standards are put in place.” (78 percent)

“This poll shows that voters share the same concerns as the MTA and its 117,000 educators,” said MTA President Merrie Najimy. “By a wide margin, parents and other members of the public do not support opening schools until safety measures are in place. We need to open schools with remote instruction and only move to in-person instruction when it is safe to do so.”

The poll also asked about the consequences of opening colleges and universities in the fall. Ninety percent of both parents and non-parents were at least somewhat concerned about college students catching and spreading the virus if campuses open in the fall, with 68 percent of parents being “extremely” or “very” concerned compared to 74 percent of non-parents.

The poll also found strong support for suspending MCAS this year. This finding came in response to asking voters which of the following two statements they most agreed with:

  1. "MCAS testing should be continued. It ensures that all students in the state achieve a minimally adequate level of knowledge before graduating. This is especially important now, given the disruptions and loss of learning caused by the pandemic." (32 percent)
  2. "MCAS testing should be stopped for 1 year. The curriculum needs to be adapted to be flexible and take into account issues around trauma and the pandemic. We should not use valuable learning time to prepare for the test, which will just show that students are behind.” (68 percent)

The poll also found that two-thirds (65 percent) of all voters, including 62 percent of all K-12 parents, think that the state’s public school curriculum should address issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, including systemic racism. This curriculum subject is supported by 62 percent of white voters surveyed and virtually all Black survey respondents — 97 percent.